|In the 12th century Duke Henry the Lion made Braunschweig the capital of his state and built Brunswick Cathedral. He became so powerful that he dared to refuse military aid to emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, which led to his condemnation and fall.|
Braunschweig was a member of the Hanseatic League from the 13th century to the middle of the 17th century. In the 18th century Braunschweig was not only a political, but also a cultural centre. Emilia Galotti by Lessing and Goethe's Faust were played for the first time in Braunschweig.
Braunschweig was a duchy until 1918, and afterwards a state within the Weimar Republic. It achieved an inglorious fame by making Adolf Hitler a German citizen, which allowed him to become a candidate for the German Reichstag and become Head of Government (Reichskanzler). Hitler was employed by the Braunschweig State Government in February 1932 and thereby obtained German citizenship. The later site selection of the Volkswagen plant in nearby Wolfsburg (Fallersleben) was likely a thank-you gift for this granting of citizenship.
During World War II Braunschweig was severely damaged by Anglo-American aerial attacks. The air raid on October 15, 1944 destroyed most of the Altstadt (old town), which consisted of half-timbered houses, as well as most of the churches. Only the Cathedral, which was changed into a National shrine (German: Nationale Weihestätte) by the Nazi-Government, withstood the bombs. After the war, the Cathedral was turned into a Protestant church again. A small section of the old centre of town did survive the bombing and remains quite distinctive.